Any chance you might accidentally hurtle down a remote mountainside, hit rocks along the way, and land in a pile of snow?
A new high-tech survival jacket could be the difference between freezing to death and surviving to tell the wild tale.
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The London-based startup Vollebak wants to give cold-weather adventurers a fighting chance. Vollebak, Flemish for "all out," launched this year. The co-founders say they treat athletes the way NASA treats its astronauts.
Their Condition Black jacket, named after the military elite's code for "you're about to die," contains a tough ceramic outer skin called Ceraspace made by the Swiss textile company Schoeller. Ceramic particles anchored in a polymer matrix stay flexible while resisting abrasion. Vollebak co-founders Nick and Steve Tidball say the jacket itself can survive nearly 75-mph falls - even if you don't.
Ceraspace works somewhat counter-intuitively. If you're in extreme cold, the material stays as close to the air temperature as possible. It doesn't suck any precious heat from your body. That should keep you warmer, according to Vollebak, "whether you've snow-kite-boarded into a crevasse, or you're cocooned in a snow hole."
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The jacket also encourages the wearer to get into a fetal position with color-coded, double-lined pockets at the shoulders for hands, further minimizing heat loss. Just like Neil Armstrong's glove reminded him what to do in space, glow-in-the-dark instructions on the jacket read: "Fasten hood shut. Place hands securely in shoulder pockets. Grip fingertips over shoulders. Pull knees up to chest."
In addition to its armor and survival position design, the black outerwear is well insulated, waterproof, and fast-drying. Pull cords on the hood are easy to operate. And, if the jacket makes it while you don't, there's a label for jotting down emergency info ahead of time.
The company's founders hope to push the limits of human adventure with products that draw from psychology, exploration, history, color theory, material technology, physiology, and neuroscience. Their other jacket is a hoodie with built-in features to help calm nerves.
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Potentially life-saving armor doesn't come cheap, though. The Condition Black jacket retails for £750, currently around $1,134. Then again, the top-ranked avalanche airbags - similar to the kind pro skier Ian McIntosh deployed during his spectacular fall in Alaska - typically range from $600 to $1,500.
I'd say it's worth shelling out some dough and looking a bit like Darth Vader if you're the kind of daredevil who wants to survive condition black situations.